A State of Fun, South Gallery, Sydney
In many ways, Gianni Wise’s work invokes the spectre of Michel de Certeau’s sublime, yet poetic image of the urban ‘pedestrian’, whose movement through the city serves always to undermine, rupture and fragment the urban planner’s desire for an aesthetically sanitised metropolis of legible space and fixed coordinates, identifiable, mappable and containable. Even as the Urban Planners of Sydney as ‘Olympic City’ caste their panoptic gaze across this lived metropolis, as if from above, the ‘walkers’ at every turn, destabilise this vision.
In harnessing the images of ‘everydayness’ – the mutable, transient and evanescent practices of everyday life of de Certeau’s ‘walker’, the artist foregrounds the multiple sites of urban resistance. These images represent, not a re-reading of the city, not a counter-narrative which would merely re-orient the logocentric sensibilities of a ‘readable’ city. Instead, the artist, by appropriating the familiar, yet bizarre tourist genre of the ‘concertina postcard set’, and juxtaposing it with these random, iterable, sometimes subtly re-visioned images of urban banality, gestures at the ways in which the practices of everyday life interrupt, resignify and fragment the sanitised cartographic gaze of the city planner.
The concertina cards signal a kind of ‘unfolding’ of non-linear time, in which the palpable flux and fluidity of everyday life, the contexts, cultures, stories, experiences, desires and hopes, write this metropolis of transitory events, movements and memories. Here, the containable trajectory of linear progression, so valued by the urban planner, is displaced by the open unfolding of heterogeneous collaborations and contaminations.
Familiar, yet sublime, pleasurable, yet somehow disturbing, almost there, but never quite, captured on film, but left to unfold, these works embrace the always displaced power of the Walker. Perhaps de Certeau best describes our urban walkers:
“The ordinary practitioners live ‘down below’, below the thresholds at which visibility begins … they are walkers … where bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ‘text’ they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other’s arms.”
Dr Amanda Wise